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IJIET 2014 Vol.4(6): 517-525 ISSN: 2010-3689
DOI: 10.7763/IJIET.2014.V4.462

Can Higher Education Exams Be Shortened? A Proposed Methodology

Eric S. Lee, Connie Bygrave, Jordan Mahar, and Naina Garg

Abstract—Any lecturer would agree that marking exams is the bane of her existence. A time-consuming and tiring process, it often requires complex, subjective judgments. Higher education exams typically take 3.0 hours. Do they really need to last so long? Can we justifiably reduce the number of questions on them? Shortening an exam by one hour, if justified, should result in a one-third reduction in lecturer time and effort spent marking. Surprisingly little empirical research has addressed these problems. Classical methods may be partly to blame for this dearth of studies. We propose an alternative methodology based on three key components including two recent developments in experimental design and statistics -- synthetic experimental designs and equivalence hypothesis testing. The third component consists in comparing, on six psychometric criteria, student performance in a class on the standard 3.0-hr final exam with that on shortened exams with proportionately fewer questions. Two are the frequently misunderstood standard psychometric criteria – reliability and validity. We argue that adding four common-sense criteria – justifiability of test use, number of exam questions, equivalence in mean student performance, and correspondence (between shortened and full-length exam scores) – confer significant additional benefits. Our approach provides a simple methodology that lecturers can, with minimal time and effort, use to examine the effect of shortening exams for their own classes.

Index Terms—Exam length, psychometric criteria, synthetic experimental designs, test length.

E. S. Lee and N. Garg are with Finance, Information Systems, and Management Science Department, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, B3H 3C3 Canada (e-mail: elee@smu.ca).
C. E. Bygrave is with Masters in Administrative Sciences Department, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver, BC V6B 2P6 Canada (e-mail: bygrave@lfdu.edu).
J. Mahar is with Mathematics Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2 Canada.


Cite: Eric S. Lee, Connie Bygrave, Jordan Mahar, and Naina Garg, "Can Higher Education Exams Be Shortened? A Proposed Methodology," International Journal of Information and Education Technology vol. 4, no. 6, pp. 517-525, 2014.

General Information

  • ISSN: 2010-3689 (Online)
  • Abbreviated Title: Int. J. Inf. Educ. Technol.
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • DOI: 10.18178/IJIET
  • Editor-in-Chief: Prof. Dr. Steve Thatcher
  • Executive Editor: Ms. Nancy Y. Liu
  • Abstracting/ Indexing: Scopus (CiteScore 2022: 2.0), INSPEC (IET), UGC-CARE List (India), CNKI, EBSCO, Google Scholar
  • E-mail: ijiet@ejournal.net


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